Near-Peer Adviser Says, “I’m With You. I Am You.”
After receiving her master’s degree in public administration from Georgia Southern University in May, Carmishia Shantanique Marl Primus, 26, signed on with Georgia State University to serve as a College Advising Corps adviser. Raised to look out for others and give back, Primus revels in her newfound mission instilling hope and aspiration in the lives of students whose backgrounds mirror her own in many ways.
“The first student I advised told me she wasn’t going to college; it was the last thing on her mind,” remembered Primus. “However, as we worked together on her postsecondary plans, her views on college slowly changed. She often doubted herself, and I saw my high school self in her. I couldn’t give up on her. Someone had believed in and advised me. Now it was my turn.”
Raised in Sparta, Georgia, life hadn’t always been easy for Primus and her family. Her parents divorced when she was just 4 years old. With three children to care for, her mother worked two jobs to make ends meet. Primus’ dad would pick her up to take her to school and in the afternoons would drop her off at her grandmother’s house until her mother finished up for the day at her second job and could pick her up.
“My parents did an amazing job at co-parenting—working together to ensure we were safe and had everything we needed,” shared Primus. “My older sister, Sherjetta, also helped out. She took responsibility for making sure I was up for school. When my grandfather became ill, my mother had to quit one of her jobs to help care for him. He passed away a year later. Now, with fewer demands on her time, my mother had more time to be with her family, help with homework, and attend afterschool activities.”
In 2007, Primus’ sister, six years older, left for college. Primus’ young cousin moved in and became to her the little brother she never had. She watched over him with the same care and attention her sister had given to her — preparing Primus, even then perhaps, for a life devoted to giving back.
“Even though he was my cousin, to me he was a little brother,” Primus shared. “My dad would even help out in raising him. Despite living separately, my parents were always supportive and attentive to our needs.”
Primus was active in high school, participating on the high school’s cheerleading squad and also as a flag girl in her high school band. In 7th grade, she was invited to join the University of Georgia Educational Talent Search (ETS), a program identifying and assisting students from disadvantaged backgrounds who demonstrate the potential to succeed in higher education. In 10th grade, Primus became a member of the Upward Bound program at Mercer University.
“Upward Bound serves students from low-income families and those whose parents did not receive postsecondary education,” said Primus, who was the only student in her grade selected that year to be a Mercer University Upward Bound Scholar. “My adviser met with me weekly to discuss my plans for higher education.”
When it came time for college, Primus and her parents toured multiple colleges. In the end, she decided to enroll at Middle Georgia State University in Macon, Georgia, where she devoted herself to her studies and several outreach activities sponsored by her school.
Although Primus first heard about College Advising Corps during her senior year, she opted at the time to pursue a master’s degree after graduation. After earning her master’s degree, Primus’ sister shared with her an opportunity at GSU to serve as a college adviser. She applied and landed the position.
College Advising Corps is a service organization dedicated to increasing the number of low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented high school students enrolling in higher education. The corps partners with 31 universities across the country to enlist more than 800 recent college graduates who then serve as advisers in underserved high schools in 17 states. These near-peer advisers serve full-time for two years, helping students navigate the complex college application process and realize their dreams for higher education.
“Since becoming an adviser, I’ve learned to never give up on others,” Primus said, a smile coming to her face. “If Plan A doesn’t succeed, there are 25 more plans to try. I’ve learned how important it is to work together as a team to help students achieve their goals.”
Ever humble and self-aware, Primus shared that serving as an adviser is also teaching her how to evaluate herself and recognize areas where “there’s room for improvement.”
“I recommend serving as an adviser to anyone who wants to give back and make an impact on the lives of others,” she said. “The work is so rewarding. College Advising Corps also provides multiple opportunities for advisers to network and meet people from so many different walks of life. Our directors are always providing resources to help prepare us for life after the corps.”
After her time with College Advising Corps comes to a close, Primus hopes to take her experience as an adviser into the nonprofit sector where she will continue working to assist underserved students with their postsecondary plans.
To learn more about College Advising Corps, its partner universities, and its goal to propel one million students to higher education by 2025, please visit collegeadvisingcorps.org.